Robert Schukai works for Thomson Reuters Corp., a multinational media conglomerate based in New York City, as the head of advanced product innovation.
Schukai flew to the United Kingdom with his wife, Linda Rowley, his son, Jackson, 15, and his daughter, Hallie, 13, who attended the ceremony.
“We are so proud of him,” Rowley said. “This is an incredible award. It is not handed out to just anybody.”
The family did not meet Queen Elizabeth, who was in Italy at the time, but Rowley said Prince William “was ever so kind.”
Rowley said there were many guards stationed throughout the palace and inside the huge ballroom sat the thrones and “absolutely incredible” art.
“It was amazing, absolutely amazing,” Rowley said.
From 1997 to 2005, Schukai and Rowley both worked for Motorola in London and lived in a small village outside of the city.
When Schukai accepted a job with Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, the family moved to east Cobb off Lower Roswell Road.
The British Consulate General in Atlanta, which represents the United Kingdom for the Southeastern United States, recommended Schukai for the award for his promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
An entrepreneurial spirit across the pond
Three years ago, Schukai started working with Apps for Good, which teaches kids to design and develop products to make a difference in the world.
Rowley said her husband works with companies all over the world, “but his passion is helping kids.” Especially children who live in lower-income areas and are at risk for dropping out of school.
Apps for Good hones entrepreneurial skills by having students create mobile applications — and essentially start-up companies — through team work exercises and solo projects.
The kids think of a problem to solve, develop a business strategy and marketing plan, create a prototype using a software tool and build the coding to offer the product on an Android platform.
Then there is a competition where the students can pitch their plans to bring the products to market.
“The ideas are just incredible what you get,” Schukai said. “They continue to surprise me year after year.”
As a mentor, Schukai often uses Skype to conduct sessions with students about user experience, design and public speaking.
Schukai also finds himself traveling across every corner of the United Kingdom because the academic program “has exploded” from urban areas in East London to rural areas in the very north of Scotland.
“Not a particularly easy place to get to,” Schukai said.
There are more than 20,000 students in the United Kingdom taking part in the program and more than half of the participants are girls.
The ages range from primary schools with students who are 9 and 10 years old to students who are completing their last year in school before entering a university.
Program coming to Georgia?
The goal of Apps for Good is to transform the way technology is taught in public schools across the world.
There is an effort to offer this program to American students, first focusing on the Silicon Valley in California.
“There is definitely an interest to bring this to the states,” Schukai said.
Schukai thinks schools in the United States should include a computer science course as part of the mandated curriculum for high school graduation.
Rowley said a program should be started in Georgia, which is a hub for technology companies.
“This is the way the world is changing,” Rowley said.